Trapped Overnight in Cootes Paradise!
This newspaper account coordinates well with the recent Dundas Valley Historical Society Presentation on the Desjardins Canal and the story of murder in Cootes Paradise that also ran recently in serial form in the Hamilton Spectator.
The newspaper clipping from 1953 has been published with the permission of Mr. Ray Varey of Dundas. Even though the brown tone has been removed the actual article may still be difficult to read. So, for you, I retyped the account.
Hamilton Feb,16th !953 –(Staff Special) Applying their scout and cub training three Hamilton boys survived a wet, cold night on a small isolated island in Dundas Marsh during the week end.
Douglas Varey 11, his brother Ray 9 of Cumberland Ave., and Barry Lowe 12 Holton Ave. inched their way across shell-thin ice to the mainland early Sunday after spending the night on Hazelnut Island, about 100 yards from shore. It was Ray who led his older companions to safety by crawling along on his stomach and testing the ice with a penknife.
Earlier, they had pulled Raymond from the water twice when he plunged through on thin spots in the ice. Both the other boys fell in once when the ice gave way. John Varey, father of two of the boys, and six others searched from early morning for the boys.
Mr. Varey said he and his wife worried about the boys, but believed their Scout training and camping experience would enable them to return safely.
The search was started when the boys failed to return by nightfall Saturday.
For the boys it was a night of terror. They took turns singing and telling stories to keep up their spirits.
The adventure started when the boys tried to make their way off the island. Mr. Varey said, Raymond fell through the ice and had to be pulled out of ten feet of water by his companions. Darkness had fallen and unable to see their way across the treacherous ice, the lads decided to camp out.
They went to a hut maintained by the Royal Botanical Gardens, where bunks are installed, took off their wet clothing and wrapped themselves in burlap bags
Ray had the only matches and these were useless after his ducking.
Consequently there was no fire to dry their clothes.
With the early morning light the boys decided to try once again to reach safety. They found poles on the island and intended to swim with the wooden supports to the mainland. With Ray leading the way, testing the ice with his knife, they had their way slowly and painfully to shore, each getting one ducking.
Once on shore the boys made their way along the railroad tracks to the Royal Botanical Gardens field station on the Old Guelph road.
When Ray Halward answered their knock on the door, they requested permission to use his telephone. “I could see they were pretty beat,” he said “They were soaking wet and tired-looking kids. I took them down to the furnace room to warm them up and while my wife prepared cocoa, I called police and their parents. They had had nothing to eat since Saturday noon and they were very hungry.”